Kiwi reality TV stars and influencers Art and Matilda Green are being criticised for hosting celebrity chef Pete Evans in the latest episode of their podcast where he claimed aspects of COVID-19 are "a hoax" among other controversial statements.
More than 500,000 people have died from the pandemic internationally with global cases approaching 11 million, yet dangerous conspiracy theories about the disease continue to be widely propagated by many people, including Pete.
In their Well and Good podcast episode, the former Bachelor stars praised Pete, who has been widely criticised for spreading inaccurate information about vaccines and other health-related issues.
The couple also defended him against accusations of being a conspiracy theorist during the podcast, with Matilda claiming: "People are starting to catch on to how desperate the media are to drag you down."
Some of the My Kitchen Rules judge's recent social media posts include an anti-vaccine meme about 'injecting humans with toxins at birth', multiple claims the COVID-19 pandemic not being real and a suggestion that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Bill Gates are involved in a vaccine conspiracy.
"Nothing you've posted has been crazy or unhinged. It's all taken out of context and it's all sensationalised," Matilda told Pete in the podcast.
Art suggested mainstream media had an ulterior motive in painting Pete in a negative light.
"It all comes back to money. These people [in the pharmaceutical, medical and mental health industries] see you as incredibly dangerous for them," he said.
The Well and Good podcast hosts also questioned the New Zealand Government's messaging around COVID-19.
"Have you found it interesting that there really has been slim to none talk about the immune system or keeping yourself healthy?" Matilda asked Pete.
"Art and I have been pretty surprised how the liquor shops have stayed open."
Art agreed: "'Hey, wear a mask, a mask will save your life, but don't do anything to keep yourself healthy'," later asking Pete: "Why do you think there's so much attention on COVID in this current thing?"
"I think it's a hoax. I think this whole f**king thing is a hoax," Evans replied.
"Not COVID, but this whole pandemic... that we have shut down the world. Do you want your kids to go to school wearing a f**king mask? It's ridiculous."
The trio also discussed the concept of mandatory vaccines with reference to COVID-19, with Pete insisting he was "not anti-vaccine".
"But what I can see coming is a sped-up solution to maybe not even that big a problem, that will potentially become mandated for everyone," he continued.
"Now the timing is right to present other views."
Matilda and Art did not definitively declare their position on vaccines, but Art repeatedly praised Pete for being "thought-provoking", adding that it was important to "keep being curious and questioning".
"It's interesting with Bill Gates," Matilda added, "because the media is often saying to you, 'stick to cooking', Pete, but no one is saying to Bill Gates 'where's your vaccine qualifications' or 'stick to Microsoft'."
Throughout the hour and a half long episode, Pete frequently complained about the attention coronavirus had received while other social and political issues such as sex-trafficking or starving children were still unaddressed.
Matilda suggested the response to the pandemic could show "the selfish side of humanity" while Art pitched the idea of a "global president" before declaring "we need aliens to come and sort it out".
Fans of Art and Matilda's podcast expressed their disappointment about the choice of Pete as a guest online in the comments section of a post by podcast producer Roar Collective.
"Pete Evans has so many damaging views. Let him talk about what he knows best - food. He should not be given a platform with regard to medical advice," one comment read.
"It's really frustrating to see Pete being given a platform... he is spreading misinformation that is actually really damaging and harmful," said another.
At the beginning of the podcast, Art and Matilda included a disclaimer stating they were "only discussing interesting opinions and ideas" that "weren't to be taken as advice".
The episode also included two sponsored advertisements voiced by Art and Matilda for Kiwi food company Ceres Organics, which Newshub has approached for comment.